Meet ten of #Ghouta’s most inspiring students. Despite everything they’ve been robbed of, no one could take away their hope for a better future or the motivation to see their #BesiegedDreamsactualised.
Each one of these students has a special story, and utilized their unique set of skills to survive shelling, siege, displacement, and exile. In the face of it all, these ten still retained their ability to focus on the future via their education.
Zakaria, 21 years old, grew up in Ghouta. He worked as a young farmer during his studies there. The area was besieged when he was still young, which put his dream of becoming a doctor at risk. But instead of stifling his passion for medicine, the siege worked to strengthen Zakaria’s commitment – especially when he saw how badly Ghouta needed doctors. Unfortunately, Zakaria’s financial situation put his education on pause for 4 long years. He lost his father during that time, but despite the hardship, he was able to eventually graduate high school with an excellent GPA. This allowed him to apply for medical school at Free Aleppo University in Ghouta. However, his joy to enter university and study medicine like he’d always dreamed, was ruined by the latest shelling campaign upon Ghouta. Due to the severity of the onslaught, Zakaria and his family were forcibly displaced to the northern part of Syria. Zakaria is now trying to complete his studies in medicine, but because Free Aleppo University didn’t have any international accreditation, his education has had to be put on pause once again.
— Zakaria Rifai.
Rahaf, 21 years old. After being displaced from Ghouta, Rahaf has lived with her husband in Areeha, Idlib. Rahaf finished the first year of mathematical statistics at her university in Damascus, which was less than 10 km away from the city she used to live in. The siege, however, made it impossible for Rahaf to get to university so as to actually complete her studies. What the siege couldn’t take away from her was her ability to help students in Ghouta complete their own education. So she started teaching them the subject she admires the most – mathematics. Her dream now is to study Business Management and Accounting. Rahaf says, “Because of the long years of siege, and after being forcibly displaced, we deserve a chance to be compensated for what we have lost, as the people around our age who didn’t have to go through siege are already graduating.”
— Ráhàf Ařbãşh.
Safaa, 30 years old. Safaa is a mother of three children and had finished three years in university for economics. But due to the siege upon Ghouta, she was not able to complete her education. During the siege, Safaa tried to study business administration online, but the lack of electricity and poor internet connectivity hindered her. Safaa managed to attend some courses to gain knowledge and experience in the field of administration, while at the same time working as a teacher during the years of siege. Her husband was killed during intensified bombings on eastern Ghouta. After being forcibly displaced, Safaa now lives in Aleppo’s northern countryside and is trying her best to get back to her studies and provide a better future for her three children.
— Safaa Kamel.
Ammar, 25 years old. From his small home office, Ammar started working as a graphic designer during the revolution. Many artworks that have gone viral online had been painted or designed by Ammar. He designed Ghouta‘s logo, which was used as a profile picture by thousands of supporters during the latest campaign on Ghouta. Ammar was born and raised in Douma, a city he watched be destroyed completely right before his eyes. As such, Ammar was eventually forcibly displaced from his hometown after the building he lived in was utterly destroyed. He lost his home, his office, and left it all with just one backpack and his laptop. Ammar’s ultimate dream is to become an architect so as to help restore the glory of his own city. Crafting the blueprints for this is a project he’s been working on since he was still in Ghouta. As of now, Ammar is still waiting for the day he can see his city be rebuilt.
— Ammar Bouidani.
Laila, 27 years. Laila is from Douma city. She is married with one child and had finished four years of studies in agronomy. She had only one year left before graduation and was second best in her class. Her dream was not just to get a BA degree, but she wanted to study for her MA and PhD, then start her own business. But the siege deprived her of achieving all this. Laila was unable to graduate, but the siege couldn’t keep her from developing herself and honing her skills further. Laila worked as a teacher and psychological support in a kindergarten, then became the manager of a women’s center working to support and empower other women. During the latest violent campaign upon Ghouta, despite how dangerous leaving the protection of her basement was, Laila continued speaking to the media in order to spread the news and tell the stories of Ghouta’s people who were surviving beneath the earth – under siege and intensive bombardment. After being forcibly displaced, Laila is now living with her family in Istanbul and seeking the opportunity to get back on track towards achieving her dreams.
— مع Laila Bakry.
Mahmoud, 23 years old, is one of Ghouta’s most ambitious youths. He is obsessed with computers and app development. Since he was a little boy, Mahmoud always hoped to become a computer engineer. At the beginning of the Syrian uprising, Mahmoud was still in high school. However, once the siege and bombardment began in his hometown, he was unable get his high school diploma on schedule. But Mahmoud didn’t give up on his passion. He started independently taking courses in computer repairing and programming, and, in 2014, he managed to finally obtain a high school diploma. Two years later, he was accepted into a local academy where he studied for an associate degree in computer science. Mahmoud graduated top of his class and managed to gain a plethora of real life experience in the computer science field. Mahmoud utilized the little things available around him, such as online courses, to enhance his knowledge and skill set in this time. But Mahmoud continued to dream of entering an accredited and recognized university to become a professional computer engineer. Mahmoud volunteered for many projects which contributed directly to the betterment of his society. Mahmoud lived during siege until the very end, whereby he was forced to leave his homeland to be displaced into northern Syria. Mahmoud had to leave most of his belongings behind, but he carried his computer and his dreams with him to this day.
— مع Mahmoud AL-Marhoom.
Nada, 40 years old. Nada used to live in Douma and is a mother of five. She finished high school and then completed two years of psychology studies, despite her responsibilities to her home and children. Nada wanted to study psychology because she enjoys trying to understand the depths of the human mind. Nada was well on her way to actualizing a challenging dream, but the siege interrupted everything. During the long years of siege, Nada took on mental health work to help ease the effects of war on her society. After being forcibly displaced, Nada is now in the Idlib suburb of Selqeen. Despite the fact that she is 40 years old now, and despite how hard her circumstances have been, Nada still dreams of the day she will acquire her degree in psychology, and she’s not planning on stopping there. Nada plans to strive onwards until she gets her PhD.
— مع Na Haroun.
Asmaa, 28 years old. Asmaa is from Douma city and chose to study law because she felt it was the field of study most closely matching her personality and tendencies. But the siege stood as the only obstacle between her and completing her first year of university. Asmaa was also studying French before the siege. When we asked Asmaa how many times she has been internally displaced, she said it’s been 16 times in the last seven years – providing specific locations and dates for each displacement. Asmaa now lives in Al-Ataareb, Aleppo’s western countryside, with her husband and one child. Asmaa says, “If it wasn’t for the regime’s injustice towards us, taking away our right to have access to universities, I would’ve graduated by now. But the study of law is a dream I’ll never give up on. And when I do accomplish my dream, I’ll have a lot of work waiting for me – to fight for justice in Syria.”
— مع Asmaa Taleb.
Ayman, 21 years old, loves to tear things apart and put them back together. His dream was to become an Electron engineer, but because he graduated high school during the siege, he couldn’t find a university that offered his field of study. He was however able to find a local institution where he managed to gain some knowledge and experience in engineering, but was not able to finish his second year due to the bombardment campaign upon Ghouta. Ayman was forcibly displaced from Ghouta, but he carried his dream with him to the north of Syria. He then left for Turkey and started working long hours in difficult circumstances so as to save enough money to complete his education. Ayman eventually wants to go back to his home country and use the strength of his education to help rebuild it.
— مع أيمن أبو الخير.
Hassan, 27 years old. In 2011 He was a second-year mechanical design engineering student in Damascus university. He participated in the Syrian uprising from the very beginning. During the worst days of shelling and siege, Hassan was one of Ghouta’s strongest civilian voices, through his work talking to the media, filming what was happening, and eventually volunteering with Mulham team to contribute to their civil work in besieged Ghouta. Hassan has now been forcibly displaced from Ghouta towards the northern parts of Syria along with his sick mother. Hassan has not lost his passion for engineering, and is still willing to go the extra mile to achieve his goals. They all the long years of siege and bombardment, Hassan never forget his dreams.
— مع Hassan Tabajo.